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Statute of Limitations on Workplace Harassment



images (1)Having to endure regular workplace harassment is one of the most difficult experiences an employee can endure. State and federal labor laws protect against workplace harassment, but place a time limit on when victims can file claims. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations and is set by state and federal statutes. In certain situations, the court may allow for a time extension to file a claim if the statute of limitations has already expired.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations places a time limit on the number of years a harassment victim has to file a claim. When the time limit expires, the victim is precluded from ever filing a claim again, unless the harassment happens again. The clock begins to tick the day after the harassment takes place. If more than one discriminatory event took place, the deadline applies to each event separately.

Federal Law

If you are experiencing workplace harassment, you must file a claim against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The deadline to file this claim is 180 days from the date the harassment took place. If you make both state and federal claims, the federal deadline is extended to 300 calendar days. You also have a right to begin a federal lawsuit in a district court against your employer, but you must file your EEOC claim first. Federal lawsuits must be filed within 90 days of filing the EEOC complaint.

State Law

State discrimination laws can expand on federal rules, but cannot limit anti-discrimination protections. Many states have protections for a broader group of people and have expanded the definition of harassment. Your rights under state law vary depending on your state labor code, but in most cases you must report the harassment to the state agency responsible for workplace and labor regulations. States cannot require a filing deadline less than 180 days but are free to expand the time limit by statute. Many states place their statute of limitations for workplace harassment at around six months to one year.


Tolling refers to periods of time that do not count towards the calculation of time in a statute of limitations analysis. In any civil lawsuit, if the victim was a minor when the harassment took place, the court does not begin the time clock until the victim turns 18. Similar tolling scenarios include incompetence, incarceration or absence from the jurisdiction, such as being out of state for state claims and out of the country for federal claims.


Under federal laws, your employer, colleague or subordinate cannot harass you based on race, color, religion, sex , including pregnancy; national origin, age if you are 40 or older, disability or genetic information. Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Your state anti-discrimination laws might protect against other types of conduct and might cover more groups of people than the federal government.

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